Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” H.L. Mencken expanded that definition when he said, “Patriotism, in truth, is the great nursery of scoundrels.… Its chief glories are the demagogue, the military bully, and the spreaders of libels and false history.”
I think of this definition every time I hear the phrase or see a sign or bumper sticker that says “support our troops.” This slogan has been twisted into a mantra employed to blind Americans to the death and destruction that’s the inevitable result of our interventionist foreign policy. As an editor of a daily news service, I think of this every time I watch or read a news report of a young soldier coming home and seeing his six-month- or year-old child for the first time. I think of this every time I see a young Marine coming home with his limbs blown off. I think of this every time I see another body bag or flag-draped coffin.
And every time, a knot forms in my stomach. I remember my service as an Air Force medic, treating military personnel physically and emotionally scared by war. I’m sick of it. I’m sick and tired of the perpetual and universal state of interventionist war perpetrated by both Democrats and Republicans that’s driving us deeper and deeper into debt, devastating our economy, and most disturbingly, destroying the lives of our most precious resources — our young people.
After more than 11 years in Afghanistan, U.S. troops are propping up another in a long-series of corrupt dictators, while being killed by the very soldiers they are supposed to be training. The death of the 2,000th soldier there went unnoticed by the media and the “major” parties, who spent more time talking about an anti-Islamic movie that probably doesn’t exist than about the deaths. Most disturbing of all, there was and is no outrage over the continued rate of carnage, not only of our own troops, but of the innocents killed in the “collateral damage” of drone attacks.
As a veteran, nothing would bring me greater pleasure than to never again have to report the death of other soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. There’s no reason, no justification, no legal or moral cause for the continued presence of American forces anywhere overseas. We simply cannot afford to be policemen of the world, nor should we be under any circumstance.
Sadly, it’s clear to me that neither President Barack Obama nor Gov. Mitt Romney has this same desire. Despite their pious pronouncements, neither of them understands what it really means to support our troops. They’re too busy beating their chests and trying to appear tougher than the other guy. Both resort to slogans and rely on the blind allegiance of “patriotic” Americans to “support our troops” no matter what the cause.
Blind allegiance is the mother of tyranny; it is not patriotism. Throughout history, blind allegiance has facilitated the rise of dictators who’ve massacred untold millions in the name of the Fatherland, the Motherland — or the Homeland. Blind allegiance dictates that in times of war it’s the citizens’ duty to support their leaders regardless of how evil or pure their intentions may be.
Do not allow the call to “support our troops” to become nothing more than a would-be tyrant’s propaganda tool. No matter how many bumpers stickers, signs, or yellow ribbons that are displayed, no matter how noble and well-intentioned the efforts to raise funds to support our “wounded warriors,” nothing can justify keeping our troops in harm’s way. The best way we can show our support for our troops is to bring them all home — now… alive.
The greatest gift our nation can give to the brave men and women who have pledged their lives in our nation’s defense is to honor that commitment by never again sending them into harm’s way capriciously, unnecessarily, for political gain, or to line the pockets of those who profit from their sacrifice. America is indeed the home of the brave, and we should bring the brave home so that they can enjoy the “blessings of liberty” in the bosom and safety of their families.